Homily By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America At the Divine Liturgy


By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

At the Divine Liturgy

Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

Beaverton, Oregon

June 25, 2023


Your Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco,

Your Grace Bishop Ioannis of Phocaea,

Dear Father Matthew and Deacon Innocent,

Sisters and brothers in Christ,


I feel so very privileged to be with you, especially on the Leave-Taking of the Feast of the Nativity of your Celestial Patron, the Great Saint and Forerunner, John the Baptist.

Our Lord Jesus Christ praised His prophetic cousin with the following words, after John had been arrested. The Lord said:

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaking in the wind? Well, what did you go out to see? A man clothed in robes of silk? Behold! those who wear such delicacies dwell in palaces of kings! Well, what did you go out to see? A prophet? O yes, a prophet I tell you, and much more than a prophet!” [1]

 More than a prophet. The greatest prophet. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord!”

But then the Lord added this to the panegyric of His cousin:

Amen, I say to you, that among those born of women, no one has risen up greater than John the Baptist! And the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. [2]

This is a remarkable saying of our Master! One that we should contemplate on every Feast of the Forerunner. You see how he stands to the left of our Lord on every Iconostasion, second only to the Holy Theotokos, who stands to his right?

Now, I know that from our point of view, we see the All-Holy One to the left, and we behold Saint John to the right. But that is only if you perceive the Holy Icons as objects. In fact, they are not. They are subjects, replete with the hypostatic presence of the one represented, through the power of the Holy Spirit, which fulfills the purposes of the Incarnation and the transfiguration of the created, material world.

We behold in his icon the one described as greater than all those born of women. An extraordinary statement. But followed by an even more extraordinary word: “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”

My beloved Christians, this means you and me. We are the least of the Lord’s subjects in His glorious Kingdom. But we are somehow greater than John the Baptist! How can this be?

If you look at the preaching of both the Baptizer and the One he baptized, they both commenced their ministries with the exact same message:

“Repent!  Truly the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” [3]

These very words are on the Baptist’s scroll in his main Icon on the Templon.

But the Lord Himself is the very Kingdom of Heaven – the αὐτοβασιλεία – and He is the one who has enrolled us through Baptism to be citizens of this new politeia and subjects of this Realm of the Spirit.

Each and every one of us has a potential for greatness that exceeds even that of the Prophet and Forerunner John. For the Gospel and our Lord exceed any prophecy or prophet of old. And the proof of this is found throughout the Church’s history – in the lives of the Holy Men and Women whom we call “Saints.”

Look around your lovely church. You see their faces shining back at you, inviting you to lead lives that are founded in the same goodness, the same purity, the same devotion and faithfulness that marked their lives on earth. But remember, when incense in offered before them, it is also offered before you. You are no different in your potential. For we are all “called to be saints,” as the Apostle tells the Christians of Corinth. [4]


Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us celebrate this Leave-Taking of the Nativity of the Holy Baptizer of our Lord Jesus Christ with more than acclamations of his greatness. Let us look to our own lives, and in humility and by grace strive to be great ourselves.

Not for the sake of ego, or success, or self-image. But for the same reasons that John came preaching in the wilderness of Judea. Because he was of the truth.

May his holy intercessions always protect and guide you to the fulness of the Kingdom of Heaven, where the Lord reigns with His Eternal Father, and His Holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.



[1] Matthew 11:7-9.

[2] Matthew 11:11.

[3] Matthew 11:11.

[4] I Corinthians 1:2.

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